Week 20 for the Wizards comes after back to back losses to the Cavaliers in Cleveland and the Pacers at home. It also marks the 20 games left mark in this long, up-and-down season. Washington is 1.5 games out of the 8th spot in the Eastern Conference, and armed with the easiest remaining schedule in the East, needs consistent and strong play in this stretch. This will be hard to do with availability of Bradley Beal in flux, per usual.
The “easiest” moniker is only in regards to the win loss records of opposing teams, not taking into account other factors, like venue (home or away, and number of back-to-backs), which we broke down here. Washington, somehow, has not gone on a west coast road trip at this point in the season, and will take both trips in the next 4 weeks. The first trip, taking place this week, will only feature three games, against Portland (7th seed), Utah (9th seed), and Denver (25 wins).
Because this week features the first road trip west of Oklahoma City, we take a look at the best road trip movies of all-time.
This Week’s Matchups
Tuesday @ Trail Blazers (33-31)
The week starts off Tuesday in Portland, where Washington faces the most surprising team of the season, in the Trail Blazers. The Blazers were projected by the Vegas books to win 26.5 games, and many “experts” picked the under. 26.5 was projected to get the Blazers the second worst record in the Western Conference, and third worst in the entire NBA. Instead, they’ve been outstanding since January 10th, when they were 15-24 and beat the Thunder. Today, they find themselves in 7th place in the West playoff race, only half a game behind the Mavericks for 6th, and are 18-7 since January 10.
Everything looks great in Portland according to those numbers, but a deeper look does reveal some concerns for Rip City and its coaches. The Blazers have lost 3 straight games, having given up 116, 117, and 123 points in the three losses, even though they allow 102.8 points per game on the season. These three games came on the second half of a six game eastern conference road trip, so it’s possible that traveling fatigue had a large effect. Portland will surely be happy to return home, where they are 19-12, but may be looking past this game to Friday’s matchup in Golden State.
The Wizards will have to be extremely composed on defense, as point guard Damian Lillard is averaging 32.8 PPG in 10 games since the All-Star game, which he was snubbed from. This stretch of offensive explosion includes 48% from the field, and 50 and 51 point games.
The Wizards have played the Blazers once, losing by 10 in DC on January 18th. The game was weird in that the first three quarters were won by at least 13 points, and Washington lost by double digits although they won the turnover battle by 6, and shot 48%.
The Wiz were really hurt by Wall shooting 4-17 from the field, and allowing Portland to hit 17 threes.
Friday @ Jazz (29-33)
Friday night lights edition is live from Utah this weekend. The two teams played three weeks ago in DC and the Wizards won soundly in the first game out of the All-Star break. Utah, one of the more secluded teams in the NBA based on distance traveled to games, has a great home record, 19-12. Compared to their 10-21 road record. Utah, 3-7 since the All-Star break, has looked very up and down, winning two of four at home, beating Boston and Houston, but losing to Brooklyn. They have all players available, except Alec Burks, and have gotten great output from former Wizard Shelvin Mack, who has jumped right into the starting point guard role, and averaging 11 points and 4 assists.
In game 1, Washington held the Jazz to 41% shooting and shot 49% on their own. The starting lineup dominated the Jazz, with each starter +11 or higher, including Wall at +18, with 17 points, 11 assists, 6 rebounds, and 4 steals. Beal was a solid bench contributor pouring in 16 points, and the Wiz will look for a serviceable replacement. Reserve guard Alan Anderson will play either the Jazz or Nuggets game, and he could be very useful in this matchup, as the Jazz will probably cause more matchup problems.
Saturday @ Nuggets (25-38)
The road trip ends with Washington looking to avenge one of the more disappointing games of the season. Back on Jan. 26, Washington was down 12 going into the 4th, and a 34 point 4th quarter could only get the Wiz to within 4. Washington was down by as much as 18 in the 3rd quarter. Wall was 5-17, which really hurt a depleted roster that saw Otto Porter score 2 points in 15 minutes while having a +/- of -10, before leaving with an injured hip. Gallinari was his usual Wizard killing self, scoring 26 points on 8 made FGs, including 4-5 from three. Rookie point guard Emmanuel Mudiay did a great job running the offense, scoring 20 pints himself, while being a key reason why the entire starting lineup had a positive net impact on the night. The Wizards may be be without Bradley Beal this Saturday, but it’s also likely the Nuggets will be without Danilo Gallinari.
Denver is 4-6 in its last 10 games and really has nothing to play for, but as shown in the first meeting is a scrappy team that plays with heart. If Gallo and Beal are both out it’s probably a win for the Wiz, who have better depth and star power. Look out for Will Barton to take over a lot of the scoring load, having scored 20 points in 2 of the last 5 games.
Wall is getting really good at finishing in transition lately.